Unlike the application, which is a form the employer uses to manage the applicant pool, the resume is all yours. It’s a tool with one specific purpose: to win an interview. Think of it as an advertisement, nothing more, nothing less. As with the application, most employers spend less than 15 seconds deciding whether to consider a resume favorably.

A great resume doesn’t just tell an employer what you have done. It presents you in the best light. It convinces the employer that you have what it takes to be successful in this new position or career. It is so pleasing to the eye that the reader is enticed to pick up and read it. It inspires the prospective employer to pick up the phone and ask you to come in for an interview.

The fact is, most people buy the product that is advertised most effectively. And the product you’re selling is one in which you have large personal investment: you. That doesn’t mean your resume is to be all flash and no substance. You don’t have to do a hard sell or make any claims that are not absolutely true. You do need to get over your modesty and unwillingness to toot your own horn.

teen girl holding a resume

General Tips for Writing a Great Resume

  • Make your resume attractive and easy to read. Design it in a way that employers can quickly find the most important information about your work experience, skills and education.
  • Even more important than design is content. Use concise sentences and keep it to one page if possible. Prioritize and put the most important and relevant information up front.
  • Use job titles and skill headings that relate to and match the job you want. Analyze the want ads and job descriptions to identify key words that ill make your resume stronger and more effective.
  • Stress your achievements. In addition to outlining your skills, show the employer how you’ve used those skills to get results. Identify your accomplishments.
  • Employers are looking for people with good interpersonal skills. Refer to your communication skills and your ability to work well with others.
  • Don’t include personal information such as age, weight, height, etc. Don’t use abbreviations, acronyms, “I” or “my”.
  • Be consistent and accurate with your punctuation and don’t use exclamation points. Write out all numbers between one and nine and use numerals for all numbers 10 and above. Check spelling or use spell check but remember that spell check doesn’t catch everything.
  • Tweak your resume again and again. Proof read the master copy carefully and have someone else (or several people) proof read it too.
  • Action verbs give your resume power and direction. Begin skill statements with an action verb.

Resume Tools

  • Setup a nice online resume and start to market yourself.
  • Resume Builder: an online tool to guide you through the resume process.
  • LinkedIn: A social networking tool that your future employer may be using. 

Cover Letter

If you are applying for a job that requires a resume, you should write a cover letter to accompany it. The purpose is to individualize your resume, to tell how your talents will benefit the company and to specifically ask for an interview. This is an opportunity to convey personal warmth and enthusiasm, but it must be kept short. Ask for samples of cover letters at your Workforce Center if you would find them helpful.